LOS ANGELES -- A father is normally supposed to shower his son with praise when talking about him to others, especially those with whom he works.
He's supposed to emphasize his positives while glossing over, if not completely ignoring, the negatives.
For 361 days this year, Doc Rivers does just that. He is a proud, doting father, who will sing the praises of his son, Austin, no matter what his statistics or playing time might indicate.
On those other four days, however, when Doc's Los Angeles Clippers play Austin's New Orleans Pelicans, Doc will tear his son's game to shreds, spotlighting every weakness and deficiency he has and instructing his players to exploit it.
Wednesday was the first of those four games, and Doc's Clippers defeated Austin's Pelicans 108-95 with Austin mustering only 2 points, 1 rebound and 1 assist in 14 minutes.
It was the second time Doc has faced Austin, as the two become the fourth father-son duo to have their teams play each other in the NBA. The two faced each other last season in Boston after Austin missed the first meeting in New Orleans.
"It was an emotional thing," Doc said. "I only got the chance to go through this last year once because he was injured the other time. It's just different, honestly. It's a strange thing when he's on the floor. He's your son, but you want to beat him. It's just strange. I know what side my family is on. They're usually on my side, but it's all different for me."
Doc and Austin spoke briefly before Wednesday's game, but Doc said he was still trying to get used to facing his son after watching his games as a fan and father from the stands. Doc actually attended his son's first game at Staples Center earlier this season against the Los Angeles Lakers from a seat a few rows up from the court.
"We talk in parameters," Doc said. "I'm not good at it. We haven't practiced it enough and then we talk about dinner after the game. I try not to talk to him long. I talked to him for like three minutes today. I timed my call for right when I thought he was sleeping to wake him."
Austin was born in Santa Monica, Calif., and lived in Southern California for two years while Rivers was a player for the Clippers during the 1991-92 season. He smiled when asked about facing his father but said he wasn't as nervous as he was the first time he played him in Boston.
"We've both gone over it now," Austin said. "Last year, it was a big deal because I was going against my dad, but it's not a big deal anymore. We went through this last year. It's always going to be a story, but last year was the first time. I was really nervous, but once I played, I felt good and got past it."
It was easier for Austin to shrug off the game as "just another game." Not only has his role with the Pelicans diminished this season, but he has no issue trying to beat his dad, while Doc was admittedly a bundle of nerves before and during the game when his son was on the floor.
"I think it's harder for me," Doc said. "It's easy for him. Every son wants to beat their dad. I don't think that's hard at all. He's already one of the most competitive human beings I've ever met anywhere. I don't think this is hard for him at all. I think it's strange for him when he sees me over there, but it's just harder for me because you want to see your kids do well."
It's an odd position for Doc to be in. He wants his son to do well, but he also wants his son to lose. On one hand, he's proud that his son is in the NBA, and on the other hand, he dreads having to play against him. He thought it might be interesting after his son was drafted last season, but after facing him for the second time, Doc said it's a matchup he doesn’t look forward to.
"I actually didn't like it," Doc said. "Going against your son, it's no fun for you. When he has the ball as a parent you're like, 'Don't get hurt, don't make a mistake but turn the ball over.' It's just tough. I don't get a lot of enjoyment out of it, but I thought I would. Last year, when we played and the game started, I didn't like it. I don't know what parent is going to cheer against his own kid."
Austin said he can tell his father doesn't like these matchups but admits he enjoys facing him.
"I'm sure it's kind of weird for him to scout me and tell people what I don't do well," Austin said. "You have to tell someone what your son doesn't do well. It's weird for him, but it's one of the reasons I want to beat him. A kid always wants to beat his older brother, older sister or his dad in everything. It's really easy for me. For him, it's different."
As much as Doc dislikes playing against Austin, don't expect to see the two on the same team. Doc has always tried to play the role of father and fan (and now occasional opponent) during his son's career but doesn't want to be his coach as well.
"I'm not a big believer in parents coaching kids," Doc said. "I don't think it's a good thing. I coach him when he wants and asks a question, but I kind of stay away from it. His love found the game. It wasn't my love. It's his love of the game, and I think that's very important. Having gone through AAU, I can tell you parents should be parents and coaches should be coaches."
Despite professing his love for Los Angeles and admitting that he returns to his birthplace about a dozen times a year, Austin agreed with his father and said he could never envision Doc being his coach in the NBA.
"I don't want to ruin the relationship," Austin said. "We have a great relationship. If the situation ever presented itself, I'd roll with it, but I don't think that will ever happen, to be honest with you. He's always going to have his lane and I'll have mine. We'll wish each other the best of luck until we play each other, and that's how it will always be."